Two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Graham Nash packed The Ark on Friday, April 1, to share his decades-spanning discography with The Hollies and Crosby, Stills & Nash.
The Ark’s mask requirement hinted at Nash’s refusal to engage in escapism; the singer-songwriter addressed the war in Ukraine before breaking into his timeless relic, “Military Madness,” in which he ad-libbed Putin’s name and brought the crowd into a chant of “no war.”
Nash switched guitars and gently padded the stage as he broke into “Immigration Man,” before honoring his time with The Hollies with “Bus Stop,” dedicating the tune to lifetime friend and bandmate, Alan Clarke.
Nash often gave context, discussing his ongoing solo career in which he has recently begun to make music remotely, waving his hands as he explained that files are sent all across the country so that bass and drums can be added on, after which he receives all the files and has “no clue what to fucking do with it.” Unapologetic and confident, Nash uses the f-word often enough to make him approachable but rarely enough to remain classy.
With a commitment to topics global and historic, Nash proposed that “all the world shattering books end in the same place,” before sharing the somber “In Your Name,” building a new dimension off the studio record with weary organ chords. Speaking of religion, politics and war, Nash faces the world as it is — I personally wouldn’t have it any other way.
Before moving to the keys, Nash introduced bandmate Shane Fontayne on (many) guitars and vocals and former CSN member, Todd Caldwell, on the keyboard and vocals, clapping for them himself as the audience gave extended rounds of applause.
Commenting on the dreary weather, the trio broke into Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Cold Rain” before Nash brought the temperature back up with a story of how a day with LSD and a rented Rolls Royce left him with “Cathedral.” The lightness remained as the first of a few singalongs formed through Still’s loose and bubbly “Love the One You’re With.”
After intermission, Nash returned to reflection with the social commentary “Prison Song,” which articulates “freedom that’s a high price for the poor.” Nodding to the city’s Hash Bash going on outside The Ark’s doors, Nash complimented Ann Arbor for being “incredibly hip,” referencing the city in his original lyrics of the track.
After his own “Simple Man” and CSN’s “Lady of the Island,” Nash mused on the bittersweet, slow-stepping “Golden Days,” co-written with Fontayne on the 2016 record, This Path Tonight.
The crowd remained captivated and cheerful throughout “4+20” and other tracks from CSNY’s Déjà Vu. Nash sang of nature’s wonders atop darker keys and wailing strings in “Wind on the Water” before moving into a tune he wrote on a wager after his friend challenged his talents as a songwriter.
The gentle and assuring “Our House” became a crowd favorite as the simple lyrics of love became a singalong and a faux closing track. The trio returned with “Chicago;” “We can change the world” and other calls to action pierced through the intimate Ark as Fontayne reminded us of his talent-earning tenure with Sting and Springsteen.
An acoustic cover of “Everyday” held the crowd and honored Buddy Holly before “Teach Your Children” closed out the set with simple truths, one being Nash’s command of folk chords and harmony.
Worldly and world-known, Nash didn’t need to command respect throughout the set — it was given when he stepped onto the stage. Telling stories and sharing tunes of his many decades, Nash’s theatrical and confident cadence provided the crowd with aspirations of an ensuing spirit, liveliness and vigor.
Statement Writer Leah Leszczynski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.